Partnering with an LED lighting supplier is one of the most curtial parts of being able to deliver quality service to your customers. It's not enough to just have any old supplier - you need the right supplier that has quality product, predictable turn-around and reliable customer service. The wrong supplier can put you in a tight spot with your customer. But telling the difference isn't always easy at first. If you are an energy savings company looking for a partnership with an LED supplier, here are 10 questions you need to ask.
1. How solid is your LED lighting supplier?
The tremendous energy cost and maintenance cost savings that have been created by the introduction of LED lighting technology has created a huge business opportunity, and as a result many companies have entered the rapidly emerging LED lighting marketplace. As with any new large opportunity in the early stages, there are many players, and as the market matures many of these players exit the market place. In the end, only the most innovative or financially strong are left standing. You should make sure you do your due diligence to ensure you are dealing with a solid substantial entity and not a company that is unlikely to be around through the life of your project installation. Here are some suggested methods to help you accomplish such due diligence.
- Run a Dunn and Bradstreet report on your supplier - a brevy of great information as to financial strength can be garnered from this report.
- Determine how long the concerned has been in business and how long they have been in the LED business. Past history is a good barometer of future performance.
- How many LED lighting fixtures have they installed and where are they? Is there an installation near you that you can visit to view?
- Do they have checkable case studies and references of others that you can verify performance and reliability?
- Can you visit the factory to see firsthand the depth of the operation?
2. How good is the quality of your LED lighting suppliers products?
Does you LED lighting manufacturer have a quality system? ISO 9001 is the most widely accepted quality and process standard and is internationally accepted and regulated. ISO 9001 requires annual third party audits of the subject company to ensure properly established and maintained quality standards.
The main components of an LED lighting fixture are the housing, the driver or powers supply, and the housing. Make sure the LEDs and drivers are manufactured by a well-established company. The housings must withstand many years of exposure to the environment and need to be made of rust resistant materials with properly coated finishes. Verify that your manufacturer can provide salt spray and vibration test results for their LED light fixtures. Perhaps the best way to evaluate quality is to schedule a demo or get a sample. A close examination by touching and feeling the product can verify the quality of the design and constriction.
Once again your supplier should be able to provide you with references and case studies that can be used to verify their quality.
3. What are the technical capabilities of your LED lighting manufacturers light fixture?
LED lighting technology is moving pretty quickly, and having the technical ability to keep up with the changes ensures you get a product that is state of the art and provides the best value and energy savings. What LED chip does your manufacturer use? How are the optics designed and manufactured? Opto-electronic engineering is the key to efficient light distribution for LED lighting application. Are the drivers programmable and have communication capabilities? To take full advantage of available energy savings, smart drivers can optimize the amount of light and adjust light levels according to presence and need.
Is the LED light fixture of a modular design? When designing projects, optimization is important to provide the best value for your customers. A modular system allows for a common platform and common components, which allow you to optimize the individual light fixtures to provide the best light level fits at each fixture location. And all with aesthetically pleasing looking fixtures! A modular system may have LED light bar increments of 30 Watts, therefore you could have light fixtures of 30, 60, 90, 120, 150, 180, 210, 240, 270, 300 Watts of LED light outfit all on a common platform with a common look and feel.
Lumens/watt is no longer the key measuring stick when evaluating the performance of an LED light fixture. With todays advanced optics, modularity, and the controls capability of newer LED light fixtures, uniform and optimized lighting coverage when and where needed in the application is now the most important measure when evaluating performance. A qualified provider will understand this and provide the proper application assistance to make sure the lighting fixtures provided meet the application and provide the best value for the customer.
4. Who exactly are you dealing with?
Is your contact a distributor, a broker, a manufacturer’s representative. or the actual manufacturer? How many layers are there between you and the manufacturer? This impacts pricing and response time in getting information and quotations. It is important that you have a contact that is educated and knowledgeable in the area of LED lighting applications.
As LED lighting is highly manageable in terms of light distribution, and today’s modular and intelligent LED systems can be highly optimized, it is important for you to provide the best value to your customer. It is paramount your LED supplier contact be able to provide value to you in the project development and implementation.
Your traditional lighting contacts may not be qualified to take advantage of all the nuances and advantages that LED lighting technology has to offer. Can you pick up the phone and call the manufacturer directly and get a qualified technician to help you in designing and applying a successful LED lighting project?
5. What level of Sales, Application, and after Sales support will you get from your LED lighting manufacturer?
Websites today are very self-serve, with tons of downloadable files, specs, and application information, but there are always uncertainties and tricks of the trade that are not easily garnered from the webpage. Websites are not always up to date with the latest information, and this is where having a well trained experienced sales or application individual from your supplier can provide you and your customer tremendous value.
Developing a long-term relationship with your sales person or members of the inside staff of your supplier/manufacturer can prove to be very valuable when things invariably do not go as planned. Professional sales individuals look long term and want to see you succeed with their product so that long-term sales and fruitful relationships are developed. Finding an LED lighting supplier with superior sales and application personnel is often the key to long-term business building success.
6. How easy is it to get pricing, ROI, and technical information from your LED lighting manufacturer?
IES Files, price lists, product data sheets, test data, catalogues, DLC listings, LM 79/80, TM21, and photometric analysis should all be readily available to you from your LED lighting supplier.
ROI (return on investment) is the basis many customers use to evaluate the viability of proceeding with an LED lighting project. Simple calculators or complete analysis from a program such as Eco Insight can provide professional proposals complete with ROI’s, cost of waiting, cash flow graphs and many other features that can make the illustration clear to the customer as to why they need to implement the LED lighting conversion immediately.
7. Can your LED Lighting supplier deliver products in a timely manner?
Invariably, the components for LED light fixtures come from all over the world with a very complex supply chain that leads to a completed LED light fixture. Your supplier must be adept at managing these successfully to be able to deliver completed fixtures in a timely manner. Many suppliers will promise quick delivery but often fall down when it is actually time to deliver.
One easy way to find out if your supplier can deliver is to ask for a sample. If you cannot get a sample within 1-2 weeks it is unlikely that your 100-fixture project will be delivered in timely fashion. If components are being sourced as needed to build, often deliveries can stretch out to 12-14 weeks. Ask your supplier what their sub assembly or component stock consists of, and, better yet, have them show you these during your factory visit.
Modular designs will allow the supplier to stock pre- assembled light bars, drivers, and housing components in a large volume so that a wide variety of fixtures can be made up in a timely fashion to meet your project needs.
8. Does your LED provide peripherals and controls?
LED applications are getting more complex, not more simple. Customers usually want one source, and in addition to providing LED light fixtures you may be asked to provide mounting brackets, photoelectric sensors, motion sensors, wireless lighting controls, light poles, etc. This sourcing and all the details can cause significant complications if not given the proper attention. Your LED light fixture manufacturer should be able guide you through the process and either supply these components to you or send you to their trusted sources.
9. Does your LED lighting supplier understand the complete Energy Savings picture?
As an energy savings company you certainly get the big picture on providing comprehensive energy savings to your customer. The more your supplier understands this, the better value they can be to assisting in your projects success. Understanding how to interface LED lights to building control systems and how everything can work seamlessly together is key to a successful implementation.
10. Does your LED lighting supplier understand and/or offer various financing solutions?
This is a whole topic by itself, but self-financing, manufacturer financing, third party financing, and PACE (public assessed clean energy) financing are all potential solutions to get a project off the ground when funding may be an obstacle. Your LED lighting supplier should be able to assist as needed to prepare financial analyses and help secure this financing as needed.
The choice of an LED supplier / manufacturer is certainly important to the success of your project. It is important that proper due diligence is done to make sure your reputation is protected over the long term and that your customers are delighted with their new LED light fixture installation.